Samoans wait in anticipation as election announcement looms

A political commentator says Samoans are waiting in anticipation for a court decision on whether they will have to head back to the polling booth for a second time as part of the country's drama-filled 2021 election.

Mata'afa Keni Lesa spoke to The AM Show on Monday about the election which could see the opposition FAST party (which translates as Faith in the One True God) take power from the Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP), which has held power for around 40 years.

Over the weekend, the final count from the election confirmed each party held 25 seats in Parliament - leaving them in a deadlock.

Single independent candidate Tuala Tevaga Iosefa Ponifasio was given the tie-breaking vote to determine the next Samoan Government - but Lesa said HRPP had unveiled a potential loophole.

"The HRPP instigated something in the constitution which they claim is there where there needed to be a sixth woman MP. Our law says 10 percent of members of parliament have to be women but the five we had before technically [only] brought the numbers up to 9.8 [percent]. Just before FAST was about to form a government, HRPP pulled out this trick."

RNZ reported the Head of State elected a new female MP to Parliament, to meet the required quota, which gave HRPP a one-seat majority of 26 -25.

However, the vote was then brought back to a deadlock when Ponifasio gave his vote to FAST.

Now FAST is challenging the female MP's appointment and is taking HRPP to court over an MP with a criminal conviction. 

"It's an interesting week for Samoa," Lesa told The AM Show.

"Normally at the beginning of the week, you'll have your week planned out and you know what you are doing at the end of the week.

"Today in Samoa of course we know there is going to be an announcement for a general election but nobody knows if it is going to happen on Friday because that's all going to depend on the decision which is going to be delivered by the court at 3pm this afternoon. So everybody is sitting back and going okay, hold the plans, hold the phone, hold everything for the weekend."

He said Samoa's Prime Minister Tuila'epa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi has been in the position for 23 years and in politics for 40, while HRPP has been in power for around 40 years too.

"That is a long time to have one party in a position of power. To be fair the HRPP government has done a lot for Samoa but do you really want a government that has been there for 40 years to do the same thing, and to an extent an abuse of power. I think those are the questions that Samoans are grappling with at the moment."

He said this was the first time in around 20 years that Samoa has had a "strong" and "organised" opposition, but he didn't know if the party was ready to take over.

"I think a lot of people are interested, including Samoans overseas, Samoans all around the world, they are interested to see how they will go if they govern."